The survey, conducted on March 21 and 22, found that despite the politics, the crime, the lingering softness in the economy, and the growth of competing destinations such as Cuba and Central America, most of the 447 travel agent respondents saw their business to Mexico increase over the past year.
All the respondents are full-time, leisure-focused agents averaging $1.5 million in individual annual sales, with an average 15 years of industry experience. Nearly 26% said their Mexico sales were up more than 5%; 13% reported sales increases of more than 10%, and 6.5% said sales were up more than 20%. Fully 57% said their sales were within a range of -5% to +5% compared to 2016 (compared to just 17% who said sales dropped by more than 5%).
North American travel to Mexico remains strong. Photo: TMR
Asked why they think sales are up, the travel professionals cited reduced fears over Zika—and, as one noted, “Our clients love Mexico and its people, and return again and again and again.”
Agents whose Mexico sales are down said their clients were concerned about not being welcome in the current political environment; about their safety; and, for Canadians, about the exchange rate.
Still, the agents said the diversity of Mexico’s product, including value-priced all-inclusive resorts, is adding to the country’s popularity.
Asked which destinations are performing best, Riviera Maya was the clear leader with 84%, followed by Cancun at 68%, Los Cabos, 37%; Puerto Vallarta, 35%; Riviera Nayarit, 19%; Mazatlan, Merida and the Yucatan Peninsula, all 8%; and Mexico City and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, tied at 6%. Colonial Cities were mentioned by 4% of the agents.
Among clients who chose not to go to Mexico, the Caribbean (82%) and Hawaii (40%) were the big winners. About one in four customers (26%) vacationed instead in the Continental United States, and 19% headed to Central America or Europe.
Agents said clients under the age of 35 were the most likely to have no concerns at all about traveling to Mexico. No one age group seemed more concerned than the others.